By Blake Matthews

When Partner In Dine (PID) and I were deciding on our next stop on our journey of fine dining frugality, we heeded the advice of a few of our closest friends and made ourselves right at home at La Casa wine and tapas bar in Shadyside. Nestled next to the adorable boutique shops on Ellsworth Avenue, La Casa doesn’t rely on a flashy exterior to attract diners. Apparently word of mouth (and Just Pay Half deals) does a fine job.

lacasapatio Dining Fine on a Dime: La Casa

(Credit: Blake Matthews)

La Casa

5884 Ellsworth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
(412) 441-3090
Hours: Mon – Wed 4:30 pm- 10:30 pm; Thurs – Sat 4:30 – 11 pm; Sun 4:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Price: Tapas range from $9 – 15, Entrees range from $16 – 28
Business Directory Listing

Upon first look, the dining room is warm and inviting, but nothing to get excited about. It was a hot and stuffy Sunday afternoon when we visited and PID was originally opposed to even trying to sit outside. But being as stubborn as I am, I insisted we at least take a look at the back patio and we both fell immediately in love. It was shaded from the hot sun and beautifully decorated.

But would the food match up?

duodeceviche Dining Fine on a Dime: La Casa

(Credit: Blake Matthews)

We took a slightly different approach than the one we took at Ibiza. Rather than going with entrees, we ordered a slew of hot and cold tapas to get us through the evening.

Our overall review wound up being hot and cold as well.

We began with the Duo de Ceviche of tuna and salmon. This was an absolutely outstanding start to our night and our hopes were high.

The fish were well marinated in the perfect blend of citrus and spice and left us fighting over the last bite.

cevichedejefe Dining Fine on a Dime: La Casa

(Credit: Blake Matthews)

Next, our waitress delivered a martini glass with tentacles.

The Ceviche de Jefe looked great on paper, boasting a combination of octopus, calamari, shrimp and crab. This dish was soaked with flavor, but was also just plain soaked. I didn’t hate it, but there was an awful lot of superfluous soup that was slightly reminiscent of potato salad.

From there, we received the Pastelitos de Cangrejo, two pan seared crabcakes served with a spicy mango sauce.

pastelitosdecangrejo Dining Fine on a Dime: La Casa

(Credit: Blake Matthews)

At first glance, I was a bit nervous about the crab cakes. But it turned out they weren’t overdone as I had originally thought, but seared with juicy, flavorful perfection.

The mango sauce was also excellent, but in all honesty, we didn’t really use too much of it since we were so happy with the crabcakes alone.

Finally we dove in to our final dish, the Filet Mignon special. It was here we were the most disappointed.

I cannot confirm or deny that the meat we consumed was actually filet mignon.

The bite-sized pieces were a bit too tough and gristly and the bleu cheese sauce only offered a faint hint of bleu cheese flavor.

filetmignontapas Dining Fine on a Dime: La Casa

(Credit: Blake Matthews)

Both PID and I would advise against this dish if it’s offered when you come to La Casa. Our close (and trustworthy) friends swear by La Casa’s Paella and I would say go for that, instead!

However, we forewent the Paella because this was budget meal challenge for us!

Stepping through the threshold of La Casa with a strict budget of $50, we knew we had to satisfy ourselves without kicking our savings to the curb.

Here’s how we made out:

Just Pay Half Gift Certificate: $25
Drinks: $4
Salmon and Tuna Ceviche: $14
Shellfish Ceviche: $15
Crabcakes: $12
Filet Mignon Tapas: $15
Tax: $4.20
Certificate: -$50
Tip: $11 (Always tip on the total, prior to discount)
Total: $50.20

We missed the mark by a mere $0.20. I was devastated. PID suggested we lower the tip to $10.80, but I didn’t want to go any lower and am, plain and simply, a fan of clean, round tip amounts. Overall we were pleased with our experience. I’ve already made another reservation to enjoy the back patio with a group of my girlfriends and try a few different menu items and maybe some wine!

When looking to dine fine on a dime, remember to start with any of the dozens of discount deals offered locally here in Pittsburgh like the ones offered right here at CBS Local Offers. Also, be sure to keep your budget in mind from the moment you take your seat. If that means foregoing the alcohol or go with a less expensive appetizer to make room for the entrée of your dreams, don’t be afraid! You can still enjoy a delicious, “five-star” meal without spending an outrageous amount for two.

Have you tried to budget dine yet? What are your top tricks?

Blake is the opinionated foodaholic behind the Taste of Pittsburgh restaurant review blog. As a Steel City transplant originally from Chocolatetown, USA, she’s on an adventure to find the best-kept culinary secrets of the city and revel in every bite.

  1. Amanda Diane says:

    IF you want to stay in budget…YOU ORDER LESS!!! you don’t dock money from the server’s tip to stay “under 50″…sheesh

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